‘Made in Taiwan.’ When I was growing up I always associated this with plastic toys and machinery but as it turns out, Taiwan is the place to go for a foodie adventure in the East – because as anyone who has been there will tell you, ‘Made in Taiwan,’ is the slogan for some of the best cuisine around. We’ve heard of Bubble Tea, we’ve heard of Bao buns – and we think we know something about Chinese & Japanese food which has largely influenced the country’s cuisine but what we don’t know is what Taiwan is really all about. Well, it is a country that is obsessed with food. And wellness – but it’s the food that sticks out in my mind.
As we drove from the airport through the green hillside that envelopes Taipei, we could spot the iconic Taipei 101 – once claiming the world’s tallest tower status looming in the distance, ‘like a stack of Chinese takeaway boxes,’ we were advised by our local guide.
Taipei 101 is the beacon of the city and amongst the hundred of tourists making their way there to see the view from the top, there are also queues of people looking to enjoy delicious soupy & meat dumplings in the building’s branch of Din Tai Fung – which is perhaps now the most famous Taiwanese exported restaurant. We were fortunate enough to meet Mr Young, the son of the founder, who was on the floor to ensure operations were running smoothly and who was humble enough to get stuck in with the staff, rolling up his sleeves and waiting on us.
At the National Palace Museum we were amused by the hype over two of the country’s national treasures – this is a museum which includes one of the most impressive Chinese antiquity collections many from the Forbidden City – but silence is commanded by the most popular pieces; a cabbage carved in jade and a stone that resembles a piece of pork belly.
Raher was typical of a large Asian night market, filled with food, clothes & tat and although I am quite adventurous, I am still unable to stomach Stinky Tofu – which tastes and smells as it sounds. The fish markets were particularly impressive, both the old and new, an emporioum of fresh water containers filled with giant crabs and mussels the size of encyclopedias. All forms of meat hung from displays in the open air, surprising our relatively tame British palates.
Our most unexpected adventure was to the Hot Springs in Beitou. These sulfurous waters are a series of hot baths that locals visit regularly for public bathing. We embraced the local custom and were found to be the source of much amusement to the residents. Enough said.
From the beaches to the hiking, there is so much more to do on this island – and really our 48 hours was just the tip of the ice burg.
Things to try:
Oolong Tea & Bubble Tea – one hot and healthy, one cold and less so
The Memorial which is currently being renovated is stunning and has artifacts from the Forbidden City
The EVA training centre – a seriously great introduction to our weekend
Things to be aware of:
Vegetarian restaurants in the hills which serve a concoction of raw roots
Street-side massages conducted with what looked like meat cleavers
Things to know:
Taxis are relatively cheap
Taiwanese manners are impeccible
Rubbish trucks play music twice a day as they tour round the city reminding residents to put their rubbish out – a similar notion to our ice cream vans. Very efficient.